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Auto and Road User Journal
Copyright © 1997 by TranSafety, Inc.
August 14, 1997
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North Carolina's Graduated Licensing Law Considered a Good Model

North Carolina's new graduated licensing law for young drivers includes a 9:00 p.m. curfew for provisional licensees and will take effect in December of 1997. According to Senior Vice-President Allan F. Williams of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), "This is a superior graduated licensing system." In the May 10, 1997 IIHS Status Report (Vol. 32, No. 5), an article entitled "It's in by 9:00 P.M. for Beginning Drivers in N.C." described the provisions of the new program. The law is North Carolina's attempt to give young drivers enough experience under a variety of controlled driving conditions so that they know how to handle a vehicle safely by the time they earn an unrestricted license.

Current law in North Carolina requires no learner's permit for young drivers and allows full-privilege licensing at age 16. Provisions of the new law include:

  • Young drivers must get a learner's permit before getting a license.
  • Teenagers must hold a learner's permit for at least 12 months without a seatbelt or moving violation before becoming eligible for a limited provisional license.
  • The teen must hold a limited provisional license for at least six months without a seatbelt or moving violation to be eligible for an unrestricted
  • The minimum age for an unrestricted license is 16 years 6 months.
  • Drivers under 18 can obtain an unrestricted license only if they have 18 months of driving experience.
  • Teenagers with a permit or a limited provisional license cannot drive after 9:00 p.m. unless supervised or going to or from work.

The last provision is a departure from driving curfews passed by other states in connection with graduated licensing laws. Curfews for young drivers often take effect at 11:00 p.m. or midnight. Rob Foss of the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center explained, however, that "with a midnight driving restriction in North Carolina you are missing more than three-quarters of the nighttime crashes of 16 and 17-year-olds." This law recognizes that most crashes involving young teens happen before midnight.

Passing the new legislation required framing the issues and informing people of the benefits of the program. The North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center spearheaded the effort to distribute handouts and information to the public, the media, and the legislature.

In Georgia, a recently enacted graduated licensing program includes a legal blood- alcohol limit of 0.02 for drivers under 21, a 12-month mandatory period for holding a learner's permit, a 1:00 a.m. curfew for young drivers, and a minimum age for unrestricted license eligibility of 18. In addition, young drivers cannot carry more than three passengers under 21, unless the passengers are immediate family members.

Other states considering graduated licensing laws include Alaska, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas.

For more detailed information on graduated licensing systems being developed in the United States and Canada and a discussion of the arguments for an against such systems, see "Can Graduated Licensing Lessen Risks for Young Drivers?" in the August Road Injury Prevention and Litigation Journal.

Copyright © 1997 by TranSafety, Inc.


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